The Use of SWOT Analysis in Project Management

What is a SWOT analysis?

In the simplest explanation, a SWOT analysis is a powerful tool for helping you identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats inherent in your project situation. It can also help you determine the actions that will maximize your chances of success and those that may lead to failure.

The strength of this analysis is its simplicity – it’s easy to understand and use. At the same time, it has proven its value over many years across a wide range of industries. The method was first proposed by Albert Humphrey in a 1952 Harvard Business Review article entitled “Strategy for Manufacturing”. Since then, it has been recognized as an effective planning model by academics and professionals alike.

Use it as part of your own strategy development process or as a management technique within your organization. SWOT is especially relevant to project management because it helps both you and stakeholders focus on the key issues that will impact your project.

Strengths

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An organization’s strengths are those areas in which it appears to be particularly effective and efficient and can therefore provide a competitive advantage. They should be factors that an organization does well compared with its competitors. Attributes of strength typically include product quality, superior service, brand value, high efficiency, low cost, favorable reputation or image. In new projects, these attributes may already exist or may be developed as part of the new project plan. They shouldn’t be just empty promises.

Strengths represent an important opportunity for a business because they mean continued success but only if the business acts upon them.

Weaknesses

All organizations have weaknesses, but they are often caused by pressures to perform well in other areas. Weaknesses are usually the flip side of strengths, meaning that rather than being good at something, an organization’s weaknesses constitute those areas in which it appears particularly ineffective or inefficient. They should be factors where the organization performs poorly compared with its competitors.

Attributes of weakness typically include poor product quality, bad service, no brand value, low efficiency, high cost and a poor reputation or image. In new project situations, these attributes may not exist at all so they represent an important opportunity for improvement!.

Although it may seem depressing to think about your organization’s weaknesses, remember that conquering them is half the battle. You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.

Opportunities

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Organizational opportunities are those factors in the project environment that exist relatively independently of your organization and maybe exploited to gain a competitive edge or advantage.

They can include new technologies, increased demand for products or services, favorable changes in legislation, new business models or even your competitors’ mistakes. Opportunities represent an important chance for a business because they mean continued success, provided that the organization acts upon them.

Threats

Just as organizational opportunities come from external sources, threats arise from external factors which could have a negative impact on your organization’s fortunes if it fails to establish strategies to overcome them. Threats should not be underestimated because they can destroy an organization if the business cannot deal with them. They are often caused by changes in the project environment that are relatively independent of the organization.

Attributes of threat include price competition, new entry into market or industry, increased costs or taxes, poor quality, labor supply and unfavorable legislation. Threats represent an important chance for an organization because they mean continued success, provided that they are overcome using strategies established in response to them.

What’s Your SWOT?

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The final stage in completing a SWOT analysis is asking each team member to consider their own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in relation to the project being undertaken by the team as a whole. To know how to do a swot analysis effectively, encourage them to answer four separate questions:

  • What am I good at?
  • What areas do I need to improve upon?
  • What opportunities exist for me in this project? How might I make the most of them?
  • What threats exist for me in this project, and how can I prepare my strengths as a safeguard against any such threats?

Sometimes, individuals have very different views about what their strengths and weaknesses are. When you have had a discussion with each team member about their own SWOTs, ask them to share their individual results. Discuss any disagreements or identify particular concerns that one or more members have raised.

At this point, it is worth bringing the rest of the team up-to-date on any relevant changes to the project environment (relating to opportunities and threats), which you discovered during your environmental review. This will help everyone get a shared understanding of where the project is situated within its wider context, and encourage them to consider what this means for their own contribution. These things should be noted when you create a timeline.

It can also be useful to pinpoint any areas in which one or more team members believe that they lack knowledge or experience, and then think about how this gap could be filled. If you’ve identified an opportunity that nobody on the team wants to take advantage of, it may mean that the task should go to someone else who is better equipped to tackle it.

To make an even more effective SWOT analysis, check out Venngage for SWOT analysis examples. Whether you’re new or a veteran in designing a SWOT chart, you won’t have any problem using the platform!